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When watching the NBA Playoffs almost every fan will have some kind of gripe against the refs at one point or another.  There’s always a game or two where you feel your team got the short end of the stick when it came to the whistles.  Some will say that’s part of home court advantage, some say the more aggressive team is given the benefit of the doubt, and some will claim the league is flat out rigged.

However the game ends up being called, the primary thing both players and fans will ask for is consistency and it’s the particular lack of consistency that has made the refereeing of this years playoffs so controversial.  While there have been scattered inconsistencies throughout this year’s playoffs, game 5 of the Miami-Indiana series serves as a focal point for inconsistent calls and feeds the conspiracy theorists who believe in superstar calls and league-favored teams.  The controversy in the game is over the definition of a personal foul, a flagrant 1, and a flagrant 2.

Lets look at a flagrant 1 that is given to Tyler Hansbrough for his foul on Dwayne Wade.  In the play Hansbrough definitely swings down on the ball with a lot of force, making contact with Wade’s head.  Hansbrough was undoubtedly making a play on the ball, but if you want to say he used unnecessary force, thus making it a flagrant 1, that is fine, but that also creates a standard.

Now lets look at the flagrant that was given to Udonis Haslem for his foul on Tyler Hansbrough.  This play was ruled a flagrant 1 despite the fact that Haslem clearly makes NO attempt to make a play on the ball and instead forcefully throws both arms at Hansbrough’s face, undoubtedly in retaliation for Hansbrough’s foul on Wade earlier in the game.  If Hansbrough’s foul was ruled a flagrant 1, there is no doubt this should be ruled a flagrant 2 (as announcer Steve Kerr immediately notes) due to the fact that the foul is an unnecessary and forceful blow to the face, with no attempt to go for the ball, and is likely a retaliation play.  Despite this, the foul is ruled a flagrant 1 and Halsem, a key player for Miami due to Bosh’s injury, is allowed to play the remainder of the game.  Sure, Haslem has been suspended for the upcoming game 6, but the fact remains that he was allowed to play in a critical game 5 for Miami and will also be available for a game 7 if the series goes that far.  Was Hansbrough punished by the refs for the fact that he got up after that foul, rather than lying on the ground as if he was shot like Wade did earlier in the game?  Let’s also consider that in instances like this, referees are instructed to call flagrant 2 fouls, as those are then reviewable, where as flagrant 1 fouls are not.  So by this judgment, the referees are saying that this is clearly not a flagrant 2 foul.  Put me down as suspect.

Lets then look at the foul by Dexter Pittman on Lance Stephenson that was also dubbed a flagrant 1.  Not even the biggest Miami homer can argue that foul should not be an immediate ejection.  Not to mention Pittman’s wink over to the Miami bench, making Pittman’s clear act of revenge that more disgusting.  And once again this was called a flagrant 1.

To go even further in the case of referee inconsistency in the series came when Dwayne was called for a flagrant for his foul on Darren Collison.  While I don’t disagree that this should be a flagrant 1 foul, it is hard to argue that Wade made much of any play on the ball and simply lowered his shoulder into the back of a defenseless Collison.  Let’s just say that wouldn’t fly on the playground.  The inconsistency comes in the fact that earlier in the year Jason Smith committed a near identical foul on Blake Griffin and was suspended 2 games for it.  That sets the precedent.  What was Wade’s consequence?  No suspension.  No fine.  Some may argue that it’s the nature of playoff basketball and that playoff suspensions should be for only really harmful plays.  To that school of thought I offer you James Posey’s foul on Kirk Heinrich that landed him a 1 game suspension…and that was in a playoff game.

Can I sense some major favoritism given to the stars of the game?  If Louis Amundson had committed the same foul against Wade (and inevitably see Wade lay on the floor for an hour, whilst having LeBron negotiating with the refs) would we be looking at a suspension?  No doubt about it.  Wade’s ‘attacker’ would have been immediately removed from the game, would probably face a suspension (like Smith and Posey), and he would probably be talked about like some kind of arch villain on Sportscenter.  Similarly, if Jason Smith committed on Reggie Evans rather than NBA golden boy Blake Griffin, there is no way a 2 game suspension would have been handed out.  Unfortunately that is the NBA David Stern has created and allowed today.  It almost seems as if the league and media are yearning for the superstar driven league we saw in the 80s and 90s.  That desire is putting a serious damper on the game.  People complain about the diva attitude that many NBA stars display?  Blame the entitlement that league has given these players based on their superstar treatment.  If the NBA wants to get rid of the growing conspiracy theories, its inconsistencies like these that need to be amended.  Will Indiana retaliate?  Lets just say game 6 will be a fun one to watch.


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As the first round of this year’s NBA Playoffs begins to wrap up we’ve certainly had some surprises as well as some disappointments. We’ve seen incredible performances as some well…flat out mystifying ones. Here are a few thoughts on what has occurred thus far…

1. The Knicks just aren’t that good. Despite all the hype about Melo, Linsanity, STAT, and Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler and despite being a headline love child for the major media outlets, we can finally see that the Knicks simply aren’t a great team and deserved that 8th seed. I know they had some injuries, I know that the Heat are a great team, and I know fire extinguishers are a very formidable opponent…but its hard to deny that this Knicks team was pretty over hyped.

2. The Pacers are the anti-Knicks. How can a team that finished with the 3rd seed be so under the radar? Despite the lack of a true superstar, this Pacers team is loaded with very good players. Danny Granger, David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Paul George, Darren Collison with names such as Leandro Barbosa and Tyler Hansbrough off the bench. They may not all be household names, but that is a VERY good team with a lot of talent and depth. Don’t be shocked if they give the Heat a serious run for their money.

3. The Spurs and the Thunder are for REAL. Both of these teams are an absolute joy to watch. In terms of the Spurs, Duncan has found the fountain of youth, Parker is playing some of the best basketball in the league, they have an incredibly deep roster, and play possibly the best team basketball of any team out there. You want to know how basketball is supposed to be played? Watch the Spurs. The Thunder, on the other hand, are just so difficult to contain. Durant, Westbrook, and Harden are nearly impossible to stop…if you corral one, another will go off. We saw this against the Mavs. Games 1-3 were all very close, but Durant, Westbrook, and Harden each took over one of those games and got the Thunder a win. It’s hard to do much about that.

4. Andre Miller is incredible. There’s a lot of buzz about Javale McGee following the Nuggetts win in game 5 and deservedly so…he played great, but this overlooks the absolute CLINIC put on by Andre Miller in that game.  Post moves, floater, bank shot, lob pass, spin move, you name it and Miller put it on display AND made it look easy. The fact that Miller has no speed, can barely jump, and is older than every single player on the Lakers roster, yet is still able to dominate a game…that is incredible.  I’m not sure about George Karl’s claim about Miller being a top 10 point guard of all time, but this guy might have a serious claim to top 10 most underrated of all time.

5. Javale McGee has made himself some serious cash. You think McGee doesn’t know he’s a restricted free agent this summer? Something tells me he’s going to be getting a lot more than that $3.5M qualifying offer after his performance in the Lakers series.

6. Was Josh Smith serious with that inbounds pass? I know the Hawks got away with it because Rondo fumbled the ball at the end and it will probably be overlooked and forgotten, but come on. You are going to throw a bounce pass right at one of the league’s great steal artists…and expect to get away with it? Imagine if Rondo didn’t fumble the ball afterwards and ended up scoring…that play ends the Hawks’ season. I guess that’s why they are the Hawks.


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Think Matt Kalil is a no-brainer pick for the Vikings at #3? Think again. The allure of a cornerstone Left Tackle being a necessity for long-term success in the NFL is a thing of the past. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the starting left tackles on last 5 Super Bowl Champion teams…

David Diehl (twice)- Giants (a fifth round pick at guard)
Chad Clifton – Packers (second round),
Jermon Bushrod – Saints (fourth round)
Max Starks – Steelers (third round pick)

That’s ZERO 1st round draft picks, and only one of them was taken as early as the 2nd round. Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at the last few “Can’t Miss” left tackles taken in the top 5…

Joe Thomas (3rd Overall)
Jake Long (1st Overall)
Jason Smith (2nd Overall)

The Dolphins have made the playoffs 1 time since drafting Long, and the Browns barely register a pulse on the football field, let alone even threaten to make the playoffs each year. Now, that’s not to say that Thomas and Long aren’t great players…they are. But it comes down to the argument of whether or not the premium draft pick and salary (both players are in the top 15 salaries in the NFL) it takes to get these players, correlates to wins.

Taking the argument a bit further we can look at starting left tackle for each team that made the playoffs in the 2011 season. According to ProFootballFocus, amongst all offensive tackles, the starting playoff left tackles were rated 6th (Duane Brown), 12th (Andrew Whitworth), 15th (Jermon Bushrod), 16th (Matt Light), 32nd (Joe Staley), 33rd (Jeff Backus), 51st (Chad Clifton), 52nd (Bryant McKinnie), 56th (Sam Baker), 60th (Jonathan Scott), and 64th (David Diehl). Not that advanced stats are entirely telling, but there seems to be little correlation between a team’s left tackle and that team’s success.

So, turning this back to the Vikings pick, few would argue with the selection of Kalil, but it can very easily be argued that the Vikings should take a very long look at cornerback Morris Claiborne. While today’s offenses have learned to scheme around offensive line deficiencies, the same cannot be said defensive secondaries. Opposing quarterbacks will undoubtedly find a way to pick on a team with secondary weaknesses and with the Vikings having to face Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler 6 games a year you better believe the idea has crossed their minds.

Will the Vikings ignore this argument and select Kalil as the traditional line of thinking suggests they should? Possibly, but don’t be surprised if they go in another direction and don’t be surprised if that ends up being the right decision.


 

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Yesterday we looked up a few names that are quickly rising up draft boards.  Here are a few prospects who are going the opposite direction and have seen their stock drop during the pre-draft evaluation process.

 

1.  Janoris Jenkins (Cornerback, North Alabama)– Jenkins is an immensely talented cover corner, possibly the most talented in this class, but his character issues off the field are going to scare a lot of teams off.  Jenkins was dismissed from Florida and ended up at North Alabama for his last season of play.  No team will deny Jenkin’s ability, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been completely taken off a lot of team’s boards.  Jenkins is the type of prospect who could be taken in the 1st round based on his talent (it only takes one team!), but could also fall to the 2nd or even 3rd round as teams might be afraid that he could end up as the next Pacman Jones.

 

2.  Jonathan Martin (Offensive Tackle, Stanford)– Martin received a lot of hype as a key piece of the Stanford offensive line that protected Andrew Luck for the past few years so when Martin entered the draft process many viewed him as one of the top offensive tackles and a potential top 10 pick.  While Martin does have a solid frame and is a very good athlete at tackle, the fact remains that he has struggles with strength and doesn’t quite show that nasty demeanor that teams like in offensive linemen.  Martin may be passed up for other tackle options such as Cordy Glenn, Mike Adams, and possibly Bobby Massie and could find himself being selected sometime in the late 1st round.

 

3.  Quinton Coples (Defensive End, North Carolina)– Coples has it all in terms of size (6-5 ¾ , 280+) and athleticism, but he leaves a lot of be desired in terms of work ethic and overall desire.  Before this past season Coples was seen as a potential top 5 pick, but many believe he played not to get hurt in 2011, thus adding questions to his mental approach to the game.  Coples isn’t an elite pass rusher, something teams would usually look for when drafting a lineman at the top of 1st round.  Teams may be willing to gamble on Coples’ scheme versatility and physical potential, but his questionable work ethic may push him into the mid or even late 1st round.

 

4.  Courtney Upshaw (Defensive End/Outside linebacker, Alabama)– Upshaw left Alabama on a championship high note and was seen as a top prospect for a 3-4 outside linebacker.  Unfortunately for Upshaw, pre-draft workouts have left many teams questioning Upshaw’s role and ability at the next level.  Upshaw measured in at 6-1 ¾ and put up a disappointing 40 time (4.78), vertical (27 ½) and three-cone drill (7.73).  These tests really exposed Upshaw’s lack of explosion, quickness, and agility, all important factors in a 3-4 OLB.  The result is that Upshaw may now need to play 4-3 defensive end, where he lacks length and pass rush moves.  Some may love Upshaw on tape, but many will continue to question his lack of true position and that could push him into the late 1st round or possibly even the 2nd round.

 

5.  Zach Brown (Outside Linebacker, North Carolina)– Another UNC prospect who has it all physically, but leaves something to be desired mentally.  Brown is certainly a stud in terms of pure workout numbers and put on a great performance at this years combine.  But when you put on the tape for Brown, teams will see a lack of instincts and football IQ as well as Brown’s struggles to shed blocks.  There also have been some questions raised about Brown’s maturity and work ethic.  While Brown has the athletic ability to be a high 1st rounder, the flaws in his game and character may push him down into the 2nd round.


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We all know about the Luck’s, RG3’s, Blackmon’s, Trent Richardson’s, and the other college football stars of the world that will be selected early in this year’s NFL Draft. Here are a few players who didn’t dominate the headlines of college football, but will hear their name called earlier than some think come Thursday.

 

1.  Fletcher Cox (Defensive Tackle, Mississippi St.) Here’s a guy who very well may be the first surprise pick in round 1. There’s been a lot of hype behind Dontari Poe after the combine as well as Michael Brockers after LSU’s great season, but Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox will most likely be the first defensive tackle off the board. The most productive and disruptive of the top defensive tackles, Cox has the athleticism to match. At 6’4 and just under 300 pounds, Cox ran a spectacular 4.79 40 in Indy, along with long 34 ½ inch arms. This gives Cox all the tools needed to be a great 3-technique tackle in a 4-3. Cox could benefit from teams’ desire to add disruptive defensive lineman ala the New York Giants and should land himself a spot in the top 15, possibly even the top 10.

 

2.  Stephon Gilmore (Cornerback, South Carolina): After perennial top pick Morris Claiborne, this years cornerback class is a bit of a toss up and South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore could potentially end up as the second CB off the board. While bigger names like Dre Kirkpatrick and Janoris Jenkins are often ranked ahead of Gilmore, both players have character and off the field issues that could knock them down some draft boards. Measuring at 6’0 ½ 190 and running a scorching 4.40 in Indy, Gilmore has everything teams want in a shutdown corner and may very easily hear his name called in the top half of round 1.

 

3.  Cordy Glenn (Offensive Tackle/Guard, Georgia): While not looked at as one of the elite offensive tackle prospects, Glenn’s massive size at over 6-5 340 and athleticism that allow him to play multiple line positions could make him a very attractive option for teams looking for offensive line help. Glenn initially entered the draft process being looked at as a guard, but showed the athleticism and ability to play right tackle at the Senior Bowl, where he put up a great performance. Glenn is now seen as a road grader right tackle prospect that also has the ability to move inside to guard if needed. Glenn’s size, athleticism, and versatility make him a very attractive option to teams in need of offensive line help. Glenn should go somewhere in the mid-first round, with the potential to go as high as #10 to Buffalo.

 

4.  Stephen Hill (Wide Receiver, Georgia Tech): Coming into the combine as a fairly unknown name, Hill burst onto the scene, measuring in at 6’4 215 and running an incredible 4.36 40. Hill is undoubtedly raw and his ability is relatively unknown due to Georgia Tech’s run heavy offense, but any team that needs a pass catcher will take a serious look at those physical numbers. Due to his massive potential, Hill could see himself go as high as the mid-first round and likely won’t slide past the early second round.

 

5.  Josh Robinson (Cornerback, Central Florida): Another Indy combine darling, Josh Robinson broke onto the scene running the fastest 40 in Indy with a 4.33 along with an explosive 38.5” vertical. At a very solid 5’10” 199, Robinson is an elite athlete with fluid hips as well as big time return ability. Although very raw, there’s always a team willing to take a gamble on those type of measurables, especially in the increasingly pass-happy NFL.  Robinson shouldn’t go any later than mid-round 2 and may even sneak into the back end of round 1.


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